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Red Cross Declares Emergency Blood Shortage

Only three percent of eligible people in the U.S. donate blood each year

Red Cross Declares Emergency Blood Shortage

The American Red Cross says it is facing an emergency blood shortage, resulting from the lowest number of blood donors in the last two decades.

“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without any blood products,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a press release about the shortage.

“A person needs lifesaving blood every two seconds in our country — and its availability can be the difference between life and death, however, blood is only available thanks to the generosity of those who roll up a sleeve to donate,” she added.

Over the last 20 years, the number of people donating blood through the Red Cross has dropped by about 40 percent. Between the most recent Christmas and New Year’s Day period, the organization experienced a 7,000-unit shortfall.

Several factors have contributed to the recent decline, the Red Cross says. Most recently, COVID-19 accelerated the decline, as people worked remotely in greater numbers, leading to reduction in the number of people who went to blood drives.

Additionally, prior to the pandemic, eligibility chances were implemented to safeguard donors, including raising minimum hemoglobin thresholds, which resulted in more donor deferrals.

Even small disruptions to blood donations, the organization says, can have a major impact on nationwide supply and would have “dramatic consequences” for individuals who need blood transfusions.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) says only three percent of eligible people in the U.S. donate blood each year. Red Cross centers are not exclusively facing shortages. In fact, the entire country is facing a “severe shortage of blood,” according to the NIH.

"The fear is always there is no other way to get this product. No one can invent blood. No one can manufacture it," Sherry Nealon-Shrive, executive director NEPA chapter of the American Red Cross, told ABC News.

"When you look at the fact that they are helping save three lives with every donation, that is a lot of blood and a lot of blood products that we are missing," she added.

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